UC Berkeley students test sport designed for visually impaired

April 29, 2013 5:02:58 PM PDT
You've probably never heard of a sport called "Goalball," but it's been around since World War II, played by veterans who were visually impaired from combat. Now, a few visually impaired students at UC Berkeley are testing it out.

To play the game, six players take the court. One team member throws the ball from one end to the other. The opposition tries to block it. In Goalball, the players are usually blind bBut for this class, UC Berkeley professor Derek Van Rheenen decided to combine visually impaired students with those who are not. "It's really opening up, literally, the eyes of individuals to say, 'Wow. What if I were visually impaired or if I were blind, how would the world be for me?'" he explained.

The players wear ski googles that have been completely blacked out so so they can't see a thing. Once the goggles go on, the world goes black. "As soon as the blindfold's on, everyone is equal," Matt Grigorieff with the UC Berkeley Department of Recreational Sports told ABC7 News.

Alec Sundly plays soccer for Cal and Goalball was a new and different experience for him. "You're basically going back to your very young days of using your hands, almost everything, your five senses, to see where you are," he said.

The lines of the court are made by placing tape over some twine. From using those lines soley and actually tapping the floor and having your teammates tap the floor simultaneously, you're able to position yourself within the context of the court and play the game," Grigorieff said.

It's challenging for anyone. It's hard, yet gaining popularity. Students were told it's a big sport in the Paralympic Games. "The Paralympic Games are the second largest international event, sporting event," said Cal's head team physician Dr. Cindy Chang. "It's only after the Olympic games."

Judith Lung is visually impaired and on the team. It's the first time in her life she's played a sport. "I never imagined that I could be on a team until I came to Cal and joined Goalball," she said.


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